Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.
This past week included a very nice Chardonnay, an excellent Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon from the husband-and-wife duo Sean W. McBride and Juliana McBride. They bottle single-vineyard selections, like the tasty Laoise Vineyard Chardonnay under the Sean W. Mcbride label, and everything else under their Crosby Roamann brand. I really enjoyed what they call their “Estate Bottled White Wine” which is actually just a fancy name for a blend of a bunch of Sauvignon Blanc clones. But it, like the Chardonnay and like the Cabernet they also sent along, shows some nice restraint and excellent levels of acidity. The couple makes 2500 cases of wine each year, and in addition to owning their own small winery building in Napa, have recently closed on a small vineyard in Napa as well.
Next, I’ve got a few more Pinot Noirs from Graham Tatomer, who spent the early part of his career convincing people that you could make excellent Riesling and Grüner Veltliner in California. Eventually, living in Santa Barbara, he couldn’t resist trying his hand at Pinot Noir. Taste these wines and you’ll be glad he did. They are light, ethereal, and delicious, especially his restrained rendition of Pinot from the famed Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.
Lastly, it’s always quite fun when wineries send me library releases in addition to their current releases. Kelly Fleming Wines sent along their 2011 Napa Cabernet bottling to accompany their 2019 vintage release and it was a treat to taste them side-by-side. Widely regarded as one of the most difficult vintages since 1998, 2011 has nonetheless proved to be a fantastic year for those who made wine carefully and diligently. In Kelly Fleming’s case, winemaker Celia Welch pulled off an excellent wine that has great freshness and balance. I preferred it to the more lush current vintage of 2019, made by winemaker Rebecca George.
Notes on all these below.
2021 Sean W. McBride “Laoise Vineyard” Chardonnay, Los Carneros, Sonoma, California
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon and grapefruit pith, white flowers, and wet stones. In the mouth, bright and juicy lemon pith and lemon juice flavors mix with pomelo and white flowers as fantastic acidity keeps things zippy and a light chalky sensation lingers in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2021 Crosby Roamann White Wine, Napa Valley, California
Pale yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith, lemon juice, white flowers, and a hint of pastry cream. In the mouth, the wine is deliciously bright, with zingy acidity that delivers bright flavors of lemon, passionfruit, pink grapefruit, and a hint of yellow herbs across the palate. Mouthwatering, with just a hint of creamy, woody oak in the finish. Fermented in concrete with native yeasts. One-third of the wine ages in steel, with the remainder split between neutral and new barrels. This is labeled as white wine, but it is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from several different clones. 13.5% alcohol. 117 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $85.
2021 Tatomer Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sour cherries, raspberries, and chopped herbs. In the mouth, juicy raspberry and sour cherry flavors have a light, fine-grained tannic grip to them, as raspberry and herbs linger through the finish. There’s a faint, salty umami quality that surfaces in the finish as well. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2021 Tatomer “Küstennebel” Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers, raspberries, and dried herbs. In the mouth, raspberries and redcurrant flavors are silky and shot through with powdery, athletic tannins that show their muscle as the wine finishes. Notes of dried fennel, dried flowers, and herbs linger in the finish with a hint of citrus peel. Excellent acidity. A delicate, ethereal wine. 13.5% alcohol. 120 cases produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2021 Tatomer “Sanford & Benedict” Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of flowers and candied raspberries. In the mouth, gorgeously bright raspberry and cranberry flavors are stony and juicy with the barest whisper of tannins. Bright citrus peel, herbs, and wet chalkboard notes linger in the finish. A supremely poised and delicious wine. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.
2019 Crosby Roamann “Crosby’s Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of graphite, pipe tobacco, and dark cherry fruit. In the mouth, powdery tannins wrap around a very fresh core of cherry, cocoa powder, and faintly minty herbal notes. There’s a hint of dried cherry and raisins in here as well, surprising given the relatively low 14% alcohol. Good acidity, and the tannins remain supple through the finish. Comes in an unnecessarily heavy bottle, weighing 1.59 kg when full. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $105.
2011 Kelly Fleming Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark ruby in color, this wine smells of forest floor, a touch of smoked meats, and dark red and black fruits. In the mouth, minty flavors of black cherry, dates, and blackberry are wrapped in gauzy tannins. Elegant and beginning to enter its next phase of life with dried floral and redwood bark notes emerging in the finish. 14.7% alcohol. Packaged in an unnecessarily heavy bottle weight 1.55 kg when full. Score: around 9. Cost: $200. click to buy.
2019 Kelly Fleming Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit and oak. In the mouth, sweetish black cherry and blackcurrant flavors mix with cola and tobacco. Lush muscular tannins wrap around the palate with a velvety texture. I wish there was more acidity and brightness here, which would make the wine feel less heavy. 15.1% alcohol. Packaged in an unnecessarily heavy bottle weight 1.55 kg when full. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $185. click to buy.